100 games a season: Gare Joyce's puck blog

Just like being in the scouts' & press' lounge, without the bad coffee and day-old Timbits

Location: Toronto

I've written for ESPN The Magazine and espn.com the last five years. My work has made the "notable" list of the Best American Sports Writing seven times and won four Canadian National Magazine Awards. My most recent book is Future Greats and Heartbreaks: A Year Undercover in the Secret World of NHL Scouts. I've written three other sports books: When the Lights Went Out: How One Brawl Ended Hockey's Cold War and Changed the Game; Sidney Crosby: Taking the Game by Storm; and The Only Ticket Off the Island: Baseball in the Dominican Republic.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Power Outage: No Heirs to Wendel, Cam Apparent

A notion floated by SI's Muir, the fast-disappearing power forward.


One quibble: Am I the last guy who objects to the use of a basketball term in hockey? Never liked the "power forward" term in hoops (3s, 4s and 5s are fine, thanks), never mind hockey.

Some of the points here are dubious. I doubt that Muir ahs seen much of Okposo--he's not remotely a fit. Steve Ott is more terrier than Doberman. Still, there might be something there about the dearth of the wingers in the Clark-Neely mould. (There's certainly a hole to fill with the decline of Bertuzzi.) A quick look at the recent draft lists yields not to many candidates.

Some guys look the part. (Anthony and Chris Stewart fit the profile physically, but Wendel and Cam they're not.) I gotta believe that more is in play here--a values shift. Clark and Neely emerged from another era, a different hockey culture. In the NHL today your highest paid players rarely fight and the fact is teams and coaches don't fancy seeing it (taking the most skill off the ice and risking injury). There's probably some carry-over to junior. The best there are more likely to fight (like breaking your maiden) and in the Dub it's like getting a merit badge in Boy Scouts. Still everyone in junior knows his role. In the pros, stars are stars and others do the heavy lifting; in junior, it's not an absolute but something is in play. (A test: Can you name a European power forward? You'd think there'd be one.)

Canadian teams at the world juniors desperately need these types of players--the guys who physically punish on the forecheck--but some years they go dry. James Neal filled that role with the Canadian juniors this year. Does Ryan O'Marra project out to the (ugh) "power forward" role in the NHL? There's a lot more beef up there.